The March on Delhi

While Stillwell was blasting a way to China through the jungle and the Japanese, the enemy was engaged in a design no less ambitious.  He proposed to invade India.  The attack through Arakan also had this aim, but it had been a subsidiary effort to distract and divide the defence.  This new movement was the grand offensive, and to back it the High Command threw in the greatest land force they had ever deployed in South-East Asia.  While Allied priorities in North Africa had withheld equipment and reinforcements from Mountbatten's Command the Japanese had built up their strength in Burma from four to nearly eleven combat divisions.

 The Japanese plan, known to their staffs as Operation U, had been shaped as early as 1943.  The field selected was the State of Manipur, immediately behind the central front.  The operation had a threefold purpose:
(i) To cross the frontier and seize the main Allied advance base at Imphal, destroying the British position on the central front.
(ii) To cut the Bengal Assam railway, which was Stilwell's supply lifeline, breaking up the northern campaign and forcing Stilwell back on Ledo.
(iii) To overrun the Assam airfields, disrupting the airborne traffic over the Hump to China.
 This would dry up the petrol flow which kept Major-General Chennault's U.S. 14th Air Force bombing over occupied China, and stop the munitions supply to Chiang Kai-shek's armies.  By these few bold strokes the enemy might again sever every kind of communication with China and this time force her out of the war.  Glittering prizes, and the Japanese unsheathed sharp swords to gain them.  Success in this matter would offset many recent failures in the Pacific.

 General Mutaguchi's Order of the Day to the Japanese invasion forces on the opening of the campaign said: " This operation will engage the attention of the whole world, and is eagerly awaited by a hundred million of our countrymen.  Its success will have a profound effect on the course of the war, and may even lead to its conclusion.  We must therefore expend every ounce of energy and talent to achieve our purpose."

 Accordingly, 100,000 crack Imperial troops were detailed for the task.  They were versed in jungle warfare, and rehearsed in some other matters also.  One item impressed upon them was that an enemy remained an enemy whether he lay wounded on the ground, or on a stretcher, or even in a hospital bed.  In all such events the recommended method was the short thrust and twist of the bayonet, ammunition was to be conserved for battle.  The plan for the offensive was, as usual, exacting.  The High Command was justified, however, in relying on their troops to carry out the tasks, which were set them.  It was in expecting the Allies to conform to their purpose that they repeated their mistake of underrating their opponents.

 Fourteenth Army Commander Slim did not regard his enemy with the same optimism.  He had not believed for one moment that the Japanese had shot their bolt in Arakan.  He foresaw a fresh offensive across the Chindwin River, and he pondered three alternative methods of meeting it.
(i)      He might anticipate it by launching his own troops across the Chindwin.
(ii)      He might fight the Japanese on the line of the Chindwin.
(iii) He might withdraw his troops from the frontier into the plain of Imphal, and fight the decisive battle there.

 If he adopted the first course it would mean meeting the main Japanese force with a river at his back, and relying largely on the air for his supply throughout the monsoon.  If he adopted the second he would still be dependent on a precarious line of communication through, Jungle Mountains.  Slim chose the third course; it meant that the enemy would suffer these disabilities and without any comparable air supply to help him out.  To implement this decision it was necessary to prepare Imphal Plain for battle, and to withdraw the extended forces and concentrate them.  Slim conferred with Lieutenant General Geoffrey Scoones, C.S.I., O.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Commander of the IVth Indian Corps, who were the available troops in this sector, and with Air Marshal Sir John Baldwin, Commander of 3rd T.A.F. On the plans thus drawn up the Battle of Imphal was fought.
Imphal Plain lies 3,000 feet up in the heart of the Manipur Mountains, which wall off India from Burma.  An opening in the gorges of the Manipur River forms it as it tumbles through the Naga Hills on its course to the Chindwin at Kalewa.  The plain, which is shaped like a pear, is about 600 square miles.  The entrance to it from India is by the north, past Dimapur and up the steep Kohima road, and so down into the valley.  To the south, roads continue from Imphal via Tamu to the Kabaw Valley, and via Tiddim to the Chindwin.  They march along the high, narrow shoulders of the mountains with a 1,000-foot drop on either side into the jungle valleys.  In the two years since the retreat from Burma, IV Corps sappers had steadily improved these communications, laying hundreds of miles of metalled and banked highway, working largely with basket and spade.  The only other exits are from Imphal Plain by track eastward to Ukhiul and westward to Silchar.

This green plateau in the mountain borderland provided the British with an invaluable base, both for defensive and offensive operations.  To serve their forward troops on the frontier they had built up there large depots, dumps, administrative establishments, hospitals and labour camps, as well as a couple of airfields and four fighter strips.  Round Manipur's pleasant village capital of Imphal an almost self-contained community life developed.  Offensively, lmphal Plain in British hands remained a threat to the Kalewa Gap, which debauched on the central plain of Burma, the heart of the Japanese power.
 From the air point of view Imphal offered the R.A.F. operational sites close upon the battlefront.  In enemy hands it would have been a sword hanging over the centre of the Allied line and the air route to China.
By this time, March 1944, Allied air superiority had been so firmly established as to be taken for granted.  But though the Spitfires of 221 Group (Air Vice-Marshal S. F. Vincent, C.B., D.F.C., A.F.C.) held the sky over the plain, destroying or probably destroying 60 and damaging more than 50 Japanese Oscars and Dinahs in the three months around Christmas, and the American Long Range Lightings and Mustangs had driven him from his forward strips, the enemy still had power to interfere with Allied air supply.  In this he was in alliance with the weather.

Over Imphal the weather did its worst.  Extraordinary commotions were set up in the air above the 8,000-foot mountains.  In the dry pre-monsoon season, dust particles hanging in the sky made it impossible to see around for more than a mile.  In the monsoon, banks of cloud rose from a base at 1,000 feet above the plain to a height of 30,000 feet.  With them came electric storms and a rainfall that reduced visibility to nil.  Flying into a wall of water, even heavy bombers and Dakota transports would be flung spinning downward, or driven up uncontrollably until the crew collapsed from lack of oxygen.  The Japanese sneak fighters hung around the edges of these air quakes, or stole in under the cloud at low level to catch planes landing or on the ground.  These things made it harder to maintain a smooth Supply.

The backbone of the air defence of Imphal was three Spitfire squadrons, supplemented by four Hurricane squadrons and a detachment flying Beaufighters equipped with night-fighter devices.  Ack-ack batteries supported the air battle and claimed a fair proportion of the destroyed enemy.
The land dispositions were that the 17th Indian Division (Major-General "Punch " Cowan, D.S.O., M.C.) Covered the approaches to Tiddim, the 20th Indian Division (Major General Douglas Gracey, O.B.E., M.C.) watched the Kabaw Valley, and the 23rd Indian Division (Major-General Ouvry Roberts, D.S.O.) lay at Ukhrul, with brigades extending south-cast of Imphal town.  Within the plain, Corps Commander Scoones ordered headquarters and administrative troops to site and wire defensive " boxes " and brush-up their weapon training.  The R.A.F. likewise protected their fields and stations.  A jungle Stalingrad began to take shape.

The Japanese proposed to employ three divisions for their main thrust-the 33rd, 15th and 31st.  Of these, the 33rd Division was to approach Imphal from the south and invest it, cutting off the British troops in their farthest outpost at Tiddim.  These were then to be annihilated by smashing them against a series of roadblocks thrown across their only path of withdrawal to the north.  To affect this the enemy were reinforced with tanks and divided up into mobile columns with orders to strike across the Tiddim-Imphal road at separate points.
The Japanese 15th Division, starting ten days later from higher up the river, was ordered to sweep northward round Imphal town and encircle it from the remaining points of the compass.  The job was to be accomplished in a few days and " in spite of all hardships."

The Japanese 31st Division was required to seize Kohima between Imphal and Dimapur, which was Fourteenth Army railhead.  There it would be poised 40 miles above Dimapur, and would be able to sweep down into the Assam plain and cut the railway wherever it chose, Kohima itself was a pleasant hospital hill station where drivers decorated their trucks with the roses that grew there.
The High Command realised that speed was the key of their plan.  Imphal and Kohima must fall before Allied reinforcements could arrive.  The stores that they contained were vital to the invader's own supply.  The tracks along which his advance was planned were impossible as a regular line of communication.  The animal transport (the Japanese employed many oxen and even elephants) was ordered to average 14 miles a day " or else serious trouble will fall upon the forward troops." With all their energy the High Command took risks which can only be called reckless, and with the one matter that will not bear risks-that is logistics.  Logistics is the moving and supplying of an army, and it is an almost exact science.

It was March 7th, two days after Wingate had landed his airborne Chindits in the heart of Burma, that Japanese patrols began pressing upon the British outposts around Kennedy Peak.  This was a 9,000-foot mountain beyond Tiddim, which acted as a sentinel against the enemy coming up the road from the river crossing at Kalewa.  Though even drinking water had to be carried up Kennedy Peak, the British had established artillery posts there, and the gun-duels between them and the Japanese mountain batteries had long been among the most famous front-line noises.

 The enemy's plan began to disclose itself when his forces were reported to be moving upon Tiddim in a wide arc from the south.  Here lay the " Black Cats," as the 17th Indian Division was known from its divisional sign.  From its cocksure attitude towards all other forms of life on the front it was also known as " God Almighty’s Own." These troops had been fighting the Japanese for more than two years, and were about the oldest inhabitants of the war in South-East Asia.  They considered themselves, with justification, to be the masters of the enemy, and by no means rejoiced to learn that their orders were to abandon their positions and retire northward.  Such, however, was the Fourteenth Army Commander's requirement for 17 Div. to fit into his plan of campaign.

It was March 12th when Cowan received his orders, and he proposed to move at dawn on the 14th.  At 3am on the 13th, while lying on his camp bed, he decided to go that same day; a fortunate decision for the enemy was moving faster than Army H.Q. had appreciated.  Cowan rooted out his brigadiers and told them to be ready to march at sunset.  That evening the entire division moved off, leaving Tiddim in flames.  They took with them 4,000 mules and 2,000 vehicles, and in the darkness many units covered 40 miles of the tricky mountain road.  Cowan marched with his men.  They had said that the General would never ride, and he had in fact already given instructions that motor transport would take wounded and stores.  He and his staff would walk.
The orders of the 33rd Japanese Division were to destroy Cowan's troops before they could reach Imphal.  It accomplished this task several times on the radio, when " only the commander and 26 men escaped to tell the tale." It is an old Japanese custom to make such boasts, and it must be added that they ardently seek to live up to them.  They made unrelenting efforts to slice up 17 Div. as it moved along the trail, pushing along the flanks through the jungle in order to get ahead and throw roadblocks across the line of retreat.  These roadblocks they covered with fire.  Indeed, 17 Div. was under fire almost the full distance of its match, the gunners blasting open the Japanese roadblocks, and the infantry storming through them, as the wagons of the division lumbered up the valley at their heels.

The delays thus imposed on the withdrawal of 17 Div. gave the enemy further opportunity to encircle it.  To deal with this, Scoones ordered 23 Div. to hold off the enemy.  This placed a strain on 23 Div., which already had commitments in the Ukhrul area, and it left no reserve in the plain itself, but the task was carried out and the risk was justified.  To discharge his new obligations it was necessary for Roberts to eject the Japanese forces, which had dug themselves in astride the Tiddim-Imphal road, denying passage to the withdrawing British forces.  Supported by light tanks of the 7th Indian Cavalry, 23 Div. attacked and drove out the raiders, enabling the march of 17 Div. towards Imphal.

Also converging on Imphal from Tamu came 20 Div.  This division had stretched its fingers down to the banks of the Chindwin River, probing the land beyond.  They guarded the shortest route to India, the Sittaung-Palel road, which runs across the malaria-bed known as the Kabaw Valley.
Gracey's stick, his Labrador dog, and his love of shooting in the woods before breakfast, suggested a squire in the Old Country.  He was, in fact, a squire in the jungle, and he knew every yard of his estate.  To this knowledge he added a countryman's contempt for the textbook cunning of the Japanese, which all his troops shared.  He had long trained them in jungle conditions and they, too, had measured their enemy.  They were sure that they could hold him in whatever strength he sought to pass.  But it was no part of the Army Cornmander's plan to fight in the Kabaw Valley.  So Gracey had been ordered to withdraw slowly.  He took his men into his confidence, explaining to them the broad picture of the campaign.  Then 20 Div., like 17 Div., set off homeward to fit itself into the planned framework, determined at any rate to beat the slats out of all Japanese who got in its way.  The condition of the roads was such that it had to use elephants to haul motor transport out of the mud, which it did like drawing champagne corks out of the bottle.  The Frontier Force Rifles covered the right flank of the division as it drew back towards Palel, and gave the enemy a lively welcome as he came over the river.  But he followed closely.

One of the Japanese objectives in this sector was Palel airfield, and they fought hard for it.  Palel, which was the second of our all-weather airstrips (Imphal was the other), never fell, though both came under enemy guns.
So the march of the outpost divisions continued towards Imphal.  They carried out a withdrawal which, though on a smaller scale, resembles in its masterly conduct that of Kutusov before Napoleon in 1812.  That is, they fought the whole of the way and left nothing behind them but their dead.  They killed at least twice the number of their own losses.  Said Cowan as his troops entered Imphal after three weeks' battle in front, in rear and in flank: " We are the better troops, and every man in this division knows it.  The moment we have the Jap on the move, we've got him! " Throughout their march of 167 miles the air supply squadrons had sustained them.  Mail from home and newspapers were delivered to them every day.  On the morrow of the casualties arriving in Imphal, they were flown out to the hospitals in India.  The effect of these arrangements on the morale of the troops was profound.

The enemy offensive was now fully unfolded along the frontier.  On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, 1944, the Japanese columns crossed the Chindwin in strength on locally built bamboo rafts at half a dozen points between Thaungdut and Homalin.  They marched silently and swiftly, more lightly equipped than any soldiers who had previously set forth on such a mission.  All was streamlined.. Their general direction had been anticipated and at Imphal, Ukhrul, and even Kohima, which lay beyond a tangled mass of mountain jungle, Allied garrisons had been reinforced and dug in.  At Ukhrul the 50th Parachute Brigade, which had been flown in as reinforcements and was fighting as infantry, inflicted heavy losses on the invaders and checked
them for several days.  Even so, the speed of the Japanese onset was surprising.

 Five days after passing the river the Japanese army stood across the frontier of India.  They bad closed in upon Imphal and were gazing down from the Somra Hills into Assam.  British and Indian troops engaged them and they had to fight their way forward.  Fighters of 221 Group meanwhile struck hard at their bases along the Chindwin.  But the flag of the Rising Sun had been raised on Indian soil for the first time.  Once more Tokyo was all lit-up with victory.

 In day-and-night shifts their radio celebrated, boasted, and threatened more wrath to come.  Programmes were broken off while excited voices in ghastly English reeled out to Indian listeners the list of Japanese triumphs along the battlefront.  This time the March on Delhi had really begun! Towards Kohima the Japanese were also driving home their punch.  Slim had reckoned on them coming there, and had both reinforced the garrison and sited new defensive positions, but he neither expected them in such force nor so soon.  In the town were mixed units of the Assam Rifles, Burma Regiment, Gurkhas and the Nepalese Shere Regiment, Punjabis and Mahrattas, together with pioneer, sapper, ordnance, transport, ambulance and medical units.  There were about 1,500 wounded in the hospital.  The covering positions at Phek, Kharasom and Jessami, which lay to the east and southeast of Kohima, were held by the Assam Regiment.  Against them came a full Japanese division.

 While these grave events were unfolding the Supreme Commander was lying in a military hospital on the northern front with both his eyes bandaged.  Riding over the jungle battlefield near Kamaing in a jeep with Stilwell a bamboo stake had injured his left eye.  He had been flown to the U.S. 20th General Hospital at Ledo, where it was doubted if they could save half his sight.  On a nearby airfield, in a Dakota, stood his flying wireless and cipher station, " Mercury.  " A stream of signals passed into it, reporting the Japanese advance.  Mountbatten got up, left the hospital and flew to Fourteenth Army Headquarters, where he conferred with Slim and Baldwin.  Reinforcements were available, both in India and on less hard-pressed sectors; the urgent problem was to get them up in time.  Mountbatten ordered 24 American air-transports off the Hump route to fly-in the 5th Indian Division from Arakan to the Kohima battle.  By rail this movement would have taken four weeks.  The first echelons of Brigadier Warren's 161st Indian Infantry Brigade reached Kohima in time to reinforce the garrison before all roads were cut.  Mountbatten's decision was taken on his own responsibility, for the American aircraft flying on the Hump route were not under his command, but directly under that of General Arnold in Washington.  General Arnold concurred in this action.

The British forward troops stubbornly resisted the enemy's advance, making him pay more than 1,000 casualties as gate-money for his entrance into India.  But as his strength was realized and the defenders discovered this through the information of their loyal friends the little Naga hill men--it was decided to draw back all outposts and concentrate them on Kohima, and orders to this effect were dispatched to the advance garrisons.  Infiltrating Japanese had by now cut the telephones to these villages, and wireless had broken down.  The orders, therefore, were entrusted to the aircraft and were safely delivered by them at Phek and Kharasom.

At Jessami, however, the troops had shifted their position during the night and the message fell in the Japanese lines.  Next day a second message floated down 15 yards outside the perimeter and a struggle took place for it.  The Japanese just won.  Three Indian volunteers, who declared that they could reach Jessami, then, set off independently.  None got through.  Finally Lieutenant Corlett of the Assam Regiment, who was at Phek 20 miles away, undertook to do the job.  He understood very well that after he had crossed the intervening jungle and penetrated the Japanese ring he was likely to be shot by the British.  For Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. Brown, O.B.E., who commanded at Jessami, had ordered that anyone moving around the camp after dark must be fired on without challenge.  Corlett reached the camp and sought to crawl past the enemy in daylight, but failed.  He tried again by night and succeeded, only to find the garrison gone and the Japanese in occupation.  From inside their lines he reconnoitered the new British position and made a dash towards it, diving down a hillside between the opposing fronts.  Both fired on him, but shouting that he was British he leapt into our foxholes and delivered his dispatch.  This officer next day distinguished himself in the battle, and again at Kohima, where he was three times wounded and gained the Military Cross.  The garrison at Jessami moved out safely during the night and retired northward on the main forces.

The Japanese tide swept round Kohima, and their propaganda exploited it to the limit as evidence that the Allies were in general retreat on India.  Neither Slim, Giffard nor Mountbatten harboured real doubt as to the outcome.  The Japanese offensive was developing substantially as expected.  The enemy had banked all on a rapid ending.  In claiming that Imphal had fallen by March 30th and Kohima by April 4th, it is probable that Tokyo was not ahead of High Command schedule.  By these dates both towns as well as IV Corps, the main British force in Manipur, had been isolated.  But against seasoned troops it is not enough to cut their line of communication.  You must place yourself in a position to conduct a battle, i.e. you must be able to concentrate for a decisive stroke.  The Japanese appeared to think that defeat could be inflicted on the British by moral means alone, and that surprise and encirclement could still achieve it.  The experience of Arakan should have warned them, but they had learned nothing.  This is to neglect your enemy, and it was one of the prime causes of Japanese failure.  The result was that once again when a reserve was required to press hoi-ne the attack it was lacking.
These facts were not apparent to outside observers.  To an anxious Assembly in Delhi, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, speaking as Defence Member, gave reassurances of his confidence in the army defending the frontiers.  Reporting on the position " as made known to me by Admiral Mountbatten, who is responsible for operations on this front," Auchinleck said: " If Imphal is still in our hands and is strongly held.  Penetrations by small parties of the enemy are always possible, but are not likely to be of major importance.  Our commanders do not intend to let Imphal fall into enemy hands." Some believed him.  Others preferred to listen to the undercurrent of opinion in the United Kingdom and the United States on the handling of this latest menace.  Americans were naturally concerned over the fate of Stilwell and his forces in the Mogaung Valley.  They were also wondering about Chennault in china.
So far we have described the Japanese initiative and the Allied counter action.  The reader must guard against the idea that in the general Course of this campaign the Fourteenth Army Commander was conforming to the enemy's plan.  On the contrary, Slim received the unwitting co-operation of the Japanese in playing his own game.  He did not invite the assault across the frontier, but he had made the necessary preparation to receive and break it.
In Imphal Plain IV Corps, already reinforced, awaited the Japanese.  Instead or a further and general withdrawal, which the exultant invaders expected, a wall of resistance rose in their path.  Slim had already cropped the garrison's tail by marching out, or flying, 52,000 noncombatants and civilians.  He appreciated that a man will eat more than half of his own weight within a month.  The rest were brought into defensive areas.  These preparations continued for several weeks before the expected date of the enemy attack.  When it was delivered a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed.

On the supply side, Major General Snelling had received his orders, too, and they were large.  He was required to stock Imphal Plain with food, ammunition and medical supplies.  The place of the evacuated non-combatants was filled with fighting men-some of the finest in Southeast Asia.  The Japanese had cut the land supply routes for the second time in two months.  Arid for the second time in two months the Allied Air Force outwitted them by flying in Slim's requirements and replacements over their heads.  The transportation of these troops was a secret and Superbly executed operation.  By the time the enemy approached Imphal it was not so much a defended base as an offensive springboard.  So it proved to be.

The Japanese came near enough.  They reached the crest of the hills overlooking Imphal airfield north of the town.  The freshly de-planed 5 Div., reinforced with tanks, dislodged the intruders and prevented their guns from doing serious damage.  The enemy threw into the struggle " every ounce of energy and talent " that be possessed, as General MutagLichi had demanded.  Not less energy and talent were expended by the garrison to frustrate this purpose.  The Japanese assaults crashed like waves in a storm against the walls of Fortress Imphal, but it was the waves that broke.
As the invaders swept into the plain they were met by the cannonade of hundreds of guns, tanks, machine-guns, and the rifles and grenades of the inflexible infantry.  As in Arakan, the tanks climbed up to the hillside bunkers to blast them at point-blank range.  The salvoes of the artillery rolled like thunder through the valleys.

'I'he war in the air was not less devastating.  In the Battle of Imphal the Japanese brought up fighter formations for the first time for many weeks.  They lasted a shorter span than they had in Arakan. 3rd Tactical Air Force swept them out of the skies, then turned both to close and remote target support for Fourteenth Army.  Hurri-bombers became part of the pattern of the assault, strafing bunkers, foxholes and gun positions.  Hurricanes spotted for the artillery and reconnoitered for the infantry.  They shot up and bombed enemy concentrations, dumps, transport, bridges, river craft and locomotives.  One squadron of Hurricanes specialised in picking out Japanese road transport at night by its headlamps.  When the Japanese " blacked-out " and traveled by moonlight the Hurricane pilots trailed them by the shadows the vehicles threw across the road.  The monsoon in no way diminished their activity.  On the contrary, 3rd T.A.F. fighters and medium bombers stepped up their sorties to 24,000 in its worst four months, nearly six times the figure of the previous year's record.  Major-General Stratemeyer had laid down the tasks of the air forces of Eastern Air Command in four words, " Strike!  Support!  Supply! Strangle Strike, to clear the enemy aircraft from the sky over the battlefield; Support our own troops with close bombing, machine-gun and rocket; Supply them in all weathers; Strangle the enemy's supply, by destroying his lines of communication, his transport and his depots.  This four-fold duty was fulfilled.
A unique feature of 221 Group's air defence of Imphal was that every night more than half the operating squadrons flew out of the plain to the neighboring Surma Valley bases, where they rested, refueled and rearmed.  They flew back on guard at first light next morning.  Though their day-to-day strength seldom exceeded seven squadrons, these were withdrawn and replaced several times over during the three months' siege of Imphal.  Altogether, 21 squadrons took part, including three from the Indian Air Force (Nos. 1, 7 and 9).  The R.A. F. squadrons were Nos. 5, 11, 20, 28, 34, 42, 60, 81, 82, 84, 110, 113, 123, 136, 152, 176, 607 and 615.

All over enemy-held Burma ranged the medium bombers of Eastern Air Command.  The heavies went as far as Bangkok.  In three days U.S.A.A.F. sweeps over the Japanese air bases notched 63 enemy planes on the ground.  Already by the time of the Arakan battle they had closed Rangoon for ocean-going supply.  Now the planes swept the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin to deny the enemy his river traffic.  The railway they never permitted to remain in working order.  The diaries of Japanese prisoners are testimony to the horrors of rail travel in Burma.  From Bangkok to Imphal was a good thousand miles, and many a Japanese soldier marched half the way to the front.  " Alas! Alas! " Run the diaries, " we footed it again for eleven days; the railway did not work." One thing, indeed, that the airplane could never do was to stop the Japanese soldier marching.  His commanders seldom failed to bring him in to battle as designed.  It was the destruction of the enemy's communications, which had decisive effects upon his campaign.  Once he failed in his final gamble to break into India in ten days his fate was sealed, for his own supply could nowhere keep pace with his requirements.  The results of this collapse of the enemy's logistics were shown later as the Allied pursuit uncovered the appalling state of the Japanese army in retreat.

While Stratemeyer's combat planes harried the Japanese, his transport aircraft poured in supplies to the Allied troops in Imphal Plain.  Day after day the hungry enemy on the surrounding hills saw the stream of troop carriers bearing in food, fuel, ordnance, ammunition, stores and men.  The airmen flew out 30,000 wounded, without a single loss.  Thus at a blow they cut in half the sufferings of the jungle war.  Three hundred planes a day unloaded at Imphal. Behind them supply units, transport men, and L. of C. troops sweated and slogged to keep the dixies and magazines filled for the men in the line.  Reports flamed round the world of impending grief.  The troops of IV Corps, on duty at Imphal, serenely stuck it out and never doubted what the end would be.